“Divorce is bad.”
We’ve all heard it somewhere. We’ve heard it in church. We’ve heard it from our grandparents and maybe our parents. We’ve heard it from people with fancy letters after their names. We’ve heard it from various academic studies. We’ve heard it from others in our community.
And for those of us who’ve been through it, we’ve more than heard it. We’ve felt it. We’ve felt the jealousy when our peers can afford things that we no longer can.
We’ve felt the sting that comes from sideways stares and biting whispers. We’ve felt the embarrassment of providing the school office with an additional address to which duplicated correspondence should be sent.
I’m the proudest, most passionate divorcee I know, and yet I still feel the need to lower my voice when I discuss the D-word. I find myself shrinking back a little before hesitantly telling people about my life’s work.
It shouldn’t be that way. After all, divorce is a rather common event that effects millions of people. We all know the statistics: about half of first marriages end in divorce (while many others end quietly, without paperwork). From there, the percentages get higher for each subsequent marriage. We all know someone who’s seen the legal end of their partnership. What’s the big deal?
Is our society freaked out by the topic because divorce is such an ugly and expensive process? Do we assume that all children are damaged by the event? Are we simply sad to see love end?
In my personal experience, divorce has been a good thing. When I was a teenager, my feuding parents got divorced and became cooperative parenting partners. In my twenties, I married a childhood friend, disappointed him as a wife, and we parted as friends. I’ve seen men and women reclaim their personal power, rebuild their lives and live their dreams following a divorce. I’ve seen children easily adjust to a peaceful bi-nuclear family after living in chaos. In short, I’m with Louis CK:
“Divorce is always good news. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true because no good marriage has ever ended in divorce. That would be sad. If two people were married and … they just had a great thing and then they got divorced, that would be really sad. But that has happened zero times.”
Good thing we have comedians to point out the obvious in such a way that we can laugh in agreement. In light of the statements above, isn’t it time we dropped the societal stigma?
As a culture, let’s stop pretending that we know what’s best for every relationship and every family. Let’s stop pointing fingers and shaking heads in disappointment when others are going through the pain and struggle of evolving a partnership. Let’s stop lowering our voices when we talk about DIVORCE.
If we let go of the stigma, we can open the door to healthy healing. Imagine a world where people going through divorce received the same kind of compassion, support and optimism that we offer someone who was laid off from a job. Imagine ceremonies in which parting couples speak vows of forgiveness, honor and a joint commitment to their children. Imagine talking about separation without shame, without blame and without fear.
A healthier culture begins with acceptance. Divorce is a fact of life and a much-needed solution for many families in crisis. It’s not going to go away and we can’t pretend it doesn’t exist. Let’s finally cast away the stigma and bring hurting families into the warm light of hope and healing. Let’s teach children that individuals are worthy of love and support regardless of marital status. Let’s understand that divorce isn’t a problem to be solved, but a process to grow through.